FORT WAYNE — Despite IPFW’s 70-47 runaway from a Kennesaw State team that left Memorial Coliseum on Friday with nine consecutive losses, Mastodons coach Tony Jasick noticed some nits to pick.
He wore the coach’s face of concern that his bunch barely outrebounded the Owls, 35-31, and wasn’t overjoyed that the eight-point lead early in the second half didn’t increase as rapidly as he would have hoped – certainly minor points that maybe his team could get away with against Kennesaw State (1-10) but could be a concern once the Summit League season begins.
And the season begins two days after Christmas when IPFW (6-7) visits in-state rival IUPUI.
Yes, it was a 23-point win – the fourth straight on the Coliseum floor where the Mastodons are unbeaten; a decisive victory that ended a three-game losing streak, which included a 12-point loss at Notre Dame on Monday. But more importantly, it was the trampoline needed before jumping into the conference schedule.
“We’re getting closer,” Jasick said. “Had we not given up the offensive rebounds and had we not had the lull midway through the second half, I think we’re closer. I think we’re getting closer.”
It was close enough at halftime Friday when Kennesaw State made the last four points to get within 26-22 at the break.
The lead grew to 45-31 on Frank Gaines’ three-pointer from the left wing with 13 minutes left, but the Owls got within 10 again with 11:45 to go.
It wasn’t until IPFW turned up the heat when Mario Hines and Luis Jacobo outscored Kennesaw State 9-2 to go up 54-37 that IPFW finally put daylight between it and the Owls.
The game saw the return of Gaines, who took just 12 shots to lead IPFW with 22 points. He also went 10 of 13 from the free throw line.
“I definitely wanted to have a strong defensive game, especially after the Notre Dame game,” Gaines said. “I didn’t play well both sides. I had to get back on track.”
So did the IPFW offense, in general. The Mastodons hit 15 of 25 shots in the second half.
“We had a number of ball reversals, followed by dribble penetration, followed by kick-out, followed by extra pass, followed by wide open shot,” Jasick explained the process. “When you can get a defense compromised multiple times per possession, you’re going to wind up with good shots.”
Hines was 6 of 8 for 16 points. Jacobo added 14 points, and Michael Kibiloski had 10. Pierre Bland didn’t score, but added seven assists.
“I think we’re feeling good,” Gaines said. “I think we’re on track to where we should be going into the Summit League.